Please forgive me for posting a little more Mark Dever for you today. The defense of “relevance” I have seen over the past few weeks since I made my now infamous post concerning a certain Seattle pastor has left me eager to post anything I hear critiquing mega-church movements. I have been interested in questions of polity, so I have been rummaging again through 9 Mark’s audio archives, and when I stumble on something that surprises or delights me, I want to post it, both for my own archive and for your reading enjoyment. Hopefully you won’t forget this like you do the content you read at other blogs. I am no blind-Dever-disciple, but from time to time he says something worth emphasizing. I don’t know that he ever stops by and sees my dark little corner of the blogosphere, but, if so, he is probably sick my quoting him. I certainly do not mean him any harm, and he will surely recover from any little marks of tarnish I have placed on his reputation, as do most the men I cite.
More to the point, as I see more and more fundamentalists (or former fundamentalists or young fundamentalists or whathaveyou) embracing “relevance” as a necessary ingredient to evangelism, I like to point out instances where men who are “outside the camp” are more conservative than they are. I find this strange. Is not fundamentalism supposed to be conservative? I guess that, despite my knowledge of the history and present state of the movement, I am surprised when this is not the case. I do not say this in an antagonizing way, nor do I revel in its truth. What I say here does not characterize all fundamentalists, but it does some.
In the interview with Mark Dever called Modern Church Reform II, the tables are turned, and this time it is Mark Dever who is being interviewed. At one point he is asked to give some concerns he has with the current state of American evangelicalism.
It’s a concern that a number of people have said, that apparent success will dull their need to listen to Scripture self-critically. That is, if things are appearing to work, if my budget is growing, and my numbers are increasing, then I must be doing fine. That apparent success is certainly correct and is certainly faithful. I think that’s a dangerous and misleading conclusion.
“Why?” asks Paul Alexander, the interviewer.
Because I can well imagine, particularly in the way America is right now, I can well imagine a church providing a very attractive partial community for carnal people, and the more we try to be “sensitive,” to use a current word, “sensitive” to people who are not allied to Christ, the less surprised I am that they will flock in great numbers to come to or be entertained by or informed by or perhaps affected by or even to join those churches. I’m not surprised by that at all; I could be an atheist and not be surprised at that; don’t have to see that as a work of God, just makes complete sense.
The next question is how those developments take away from the clarity of the gospel among unbelievers.
Well, the gospel is alien to the mind of the unregenerate. We are by nature God’s enemies. . . . Robert Bratcher did the Good News translation of the Bible back in the late sixties, and I think he had a very limited vocabulary of English words that was trying to use . . ., because he had in mind first Hispanic speakers who come to the U.S. and had English as a second language. Great thing to do. I really appreciate that. Imagine, using that as an analogy, imagine people trying to do that trying to speak the truth of God, limiting themselves only to the vocabulary of this world. How do you explain justification? How do you explain an eternal God or triune God? How do you explain the incarnation? I could just go on and on. You could do it, I mean, I could give you ways of trying to get at it, but when the very nub of what you’re trying to communicate is opposed to the very nub of what non-Christians are committed to with the entirety of hearts and lives, you’re setting out on a fool’s errand. And it will be a dangerous errand, because you will build something very much like the truth, but missing the sort of part of it that cuts the nerve of the rebellion against God, and you can’t call somebody to be a Christian and omit taking up the cross. Build as many theater seats, have as many professional musicians as you want, . . . at some point, you have to tell them, “Get up out of your seat and climb up on the cross.” . . . Then what you’re going to find is replicated again and again, people who are trying to drum up a huge attendance, but based on commonalities that we have, as it were, in Adam, and not at all what we have in Christ that’s new and unique and different. And I’m not surprised you can get a crowd, and maybe a much bigger crowd with that; it’s just not a church.
The blogger known as Dissidens made a good point about evangelicals and their insistence on bringing entertainment into the church under the auspices of relevance and evangelism: “Evangelism is the pretext, entertainment is the objective.” I think that about hits the nail on the head.
What’s the difference between the emerging church and pastors in Seattle and seeker movement? The emerging church and the pastor in Seattle is simply more up to date–he is simply targeting a “hipper” audience. Entertainment and religion are still entwined in their fond embrace.